CST 373 M/W 8-9:50 A.M.
20 May 2017
Privacy and Facial Recognition Technology
Technology is improving faster and faster every day. It’s improving so fast that proper legislation is becoming increasingly difficult to catch up with the technologies growth rate. This is causing major concern because technology is starting to threaten our basic human rights and freedoms. One of the technologies that are infringing upon our rights and freedoms is called, “facial recognition technology”. Facial recognition is a computer application capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame. Meaning wherever you go or whatever you do this technology will be able to know who you are, what you do, and what your taste and preferences are. Essentially this A.I will know everything there is to know about you even if you’re aware of it or not, “Face recognition technology can pick up on things like your age, gender and maybe even your mood. It could even tell whether you’re a criminal” (Revell). This may sound frightening however there is a lot of good that comes from this technology. It can be used to help marketing campaigns reach the right set of individuals, helping companies save money and operate efficiently. Facial recognition can be used to help law enforcement catch criminals more effectively and most importantly help find missing children. This technology will enhance our personal security and allow for all our belongings to only operate for us. It will also help our personal health by scanning our face and notifying us if we have an imbalance in our bodies or have a serious illness that needs attention immediately. These benefits just scratch the surface in regard to what this technology is capable of and what we can expect from it, but at what cost? The cost is simple, privacy, “concerns as government agencies and companies are more able to track individuals through their communities, and even around the world” (Cino). The question we need to consider is at what point does this technology completely infringe upon our basic human rights? We really need to look deeply into this technology and see who is involved, analyze the actions we can take to maximize privacy and still receive the benefits this technology offers, and determine a solution that fits best for our progressing society.
Facial recognition technology has three major stakeholders involved in making this technology operate successfully in society. The first major stakeholder is the government. The government has the ability to regulate how this technology is used and what it is used for. They are a major player in the protection of our privacy. As our government, they have the responsibility to protect our liberties and freedoms and need to hold our privacy in the highest regard. “It’s time for a U.S. lawmakers to get a handle on this. Otherwise, our faces could unlock a surveillance state more controlling than anything even George Orwell could have dreamed up.” (Roberts), this can be the horrifying reality of our nation. They need to make the citizen’s values a priority while making legislation to make facial recognition benefit all parties involved. The second major stakeholder involved are the citizen’s, us. We are what this technology is going to be used on and who it’s going to affect the most. Our rights are at stake more than ever and if we’re not careful “privacy” will become a thing of the past. “The routine unsupervised use of face recognition systems, according to the dozens of signatories, threatens the privacy and civil liberties of millions, especially those of immigrants and people of color” (Kofman). We have the responsibility to take action and fight for what is right or wrong if we want to continue having privacy we need to let that be known. The values we hold as human beings tend to fluctuate from person to person, however, we all share a common value and it is called freedom. This value that we hold so highly in America has the chance to be infringed upon by this technology if we are not careful. The third major stakeholder is the companies that are developing and using facial recognition technology. This stakeholder has complete control about how the technology works and what it can do, good and bad. Companies have a big responsibility to uphold and need to have our personal values in consideration over just making the most money possible. Their values need to align with the people.
Among all the issues regarding this technology, the salient issue is privacy. Our privacy can be infringed upon in many ways with the development of facial recognition. There is the possibility of predatory advertising by companies. For example, “there is the possibility of manipulating customers. In theory, stores could monitor the emotional state of their customers and send them tailored ads to persuade them to part with more money” (Gutowski). This form of harassment invades our privacy by attacking our desire to buy based on emotion and we then end up with a product that we really didn’t need or couldn’t realistically afford. Companies should not have the ability to sell their merchandise by invading our privacy. Another issue regarding privacy invasion is the potential abuse by governments and law enforcement. There is the possibility that the government can use this technology to spy on whoever they want to at any time. “Outside of the U.S., dictators could use this software to suppress human rights. Facial recognition apps make it easier for governments to scan crowds and melt away anonymity, matching protestors to online profiles. Last year, the Huffington Post reported this account of an Iranian blogger tortured to death for his Facebook login” (Gutowski). This example shows this type of privacy invasion is happening at this moment around the world and reminds us of the potential dangers this technology can bring.
Another important issue to point out regarding privacy is the potential of enhanced stalking. Facial recognition opens a new platform for stalkers to have a better idea about the person’s whereabouts and know more about the person their stalking. This is the sad and ugly truth of what this technology can be used to do. Privacy concerns also surround the possibility of increasingly invasive job interviews. The employer will know everything about you before you come in to interview, which could become problematic for many people trying to get a good paying job. The biggest problem we have regarding facial recognition software is the major delay in legislation, “It’s no surprise that legislation lags behind technology. Our toys evolve so fast, it’s not realistic to expect comprehensive laws in real time as if our legal system came with an update button” (Gutowski). This issue raises the biggest concern and needs to be the issue that is addressed in a course of action to figure out the best way to deal with this technology and the privacy concerns that surround it.
There are three possible courses of action that can be taken regarding facial recognition technology. The first course of action would be to make the companies stop developing facial recognition software. This action would guarantee the safety of our privacy, while also protecting our liberties and freedoms so they would not have the possibility to become infringed upon. The strengths of stopping development of facial recognition technology would decrease the possibility of the government and law enforcement to abuse their power. We wouldn’t have to worry about being watched at all times and knowing that anyone could stock you. All privacy concerns would vanish. The weaknesses of this approach are not being able to use the technology for all the beneficial aspects that it’s intended for. We wouldn’t be able to locate criminals as efficiently or find missing children quickly. There are more negative aspects of discontinuing the development of facial recognition technology. This course of action would fall under the rights approach, “This approach stipulates that the best ethical action is that which protects the ethical rights of those who are affected by the action. It emphasizes the belief that all humans have a right to dignity” (Brown University). The rights approach is used in this in this example because by stopping the development of this software the ethical rights of those affected by the action are put first.
The second course of action that we could take would be to let the companies look out for their own self-interest and have them develop and use the technology however they please. This action would mean that privacy is not considered and that the companies have the ultimate say in the way facial recognition is used. The strength of this action would be that there are no rules or regulations to follow so companies could develop the technology faster. This, in turn, would help government agencies be able to use the technology for the positive benefits that facial recognition brings quicker. Companies would make more money with the targeted ads and other money saving techniques this tech brings. The stakeholder that suffers the most from this action would be the citizens. The weaknesses include no privacy for the people, chance for government abuse, and companies becoming too powerful. This action would be a dictator’s dream making this fall under the egoistic approach, “In this approach, an individual often uses utilitarian calculation to produce the greatest amount of good for him or herself” (Brown University). The egoistic approach falls perfectly under this course of action because the companies would use the utilitarian approach creating the most good for themselves without worrying about anybody else. Using this approach disregards the people and we’d most likely become a communist nation.
The last course of action that is a possibility is to continue to develop the facial recognition software, address the privacy concerns, and create laws to fit the rights of all stakeholders involved. By following this course of action, we can still develop the technology and use it for all the wonderful benefits that it is intended for. The other benefits of this action would be able to keep our privacy, companies not wasting any extra money on marketing, and the government able to run more efficiently. Weaknesses to this course of action would be slower development of facial recognition software due to companies having to abide by new privacy laws and regulations. The ethical framework that this action represents it the utilitarian approach, “This conforms to our feeling that some good and some bad will necessarily be the result of our action and that the best action will be that which provides the most good or does the least harm, or, to put it another way, produces the greatest balance of good over harm” (Brown University). In this case, the utilitarian approach would create the most good and does the least harm to society. People would still have the privacy that they are entitled to and still have all the amazing benefits that this technology will bring to the world.
The course of action that I choose was the third action, the utilitarian approach. I choose this action because it creates the most good and the least bad for all stakeholders involved. This technology is inevitably coming into our lives whether we like it or not. So, by choosing the utilitarian approach we can focus on laws that help protect our privacy and still be able to use the technology for the intended purposes. I believe that if we make the ways to abuse facial recognition known beforehand we can eliminate any chance of it happening, “It’s important to understand the scale of change that is under way because it is going to dictate what happens. Knowing about facial recognition, and how it is used by both governments and companies, is key to helping us face the future” (Dormehl). We can create legislation to ensure the protection of our privacy. We’ll be able to use this technology to fight crime and stop criminals before they have the chance to commit a crime. This technology will better businesses and consumers by, “allowing businesses to customize their service and products as well as their advertising. And it’s certainly beneficial to the customer because they don’t have to waste time essentially relaying that information” (Iowa State University). Shopping for merchandise will be easier than ever and customized to what you want. Facial recognition will even help people with various addictions by knowing when a certain habit is becoming a problem. This technology will be the best thing that ever happened to mankind.
- Iowa State University. (2013, May 8). Benefit vs. risk of facial recognition technology. Retrieved May 15, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130508213233.htm
- Dormehl, L. (2014, May 04). Facial recognition: is the technology taking away your I dentity? Retrieved May 20, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/04/facial-recognition- technology-identity-tesco-ethical-issues
- 7 surprising ways facial recognition is used. (2011, August 05). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/7-surprising-ways-facial-recognition-is- used/3/
- Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2017, from https://www.brown.edu/academics/science-and-technology- studies/framework-making-ethical-decisions
- Conversation, T. (2017, April 06). Facial Recognition Could Threaten Our Basic Human Retrieved May 08, 2017, from https://www.inverse.com/article/29976- facial-recognition-human-rights
- G. (n.d.). Five Issues Of Facial Recognition Software. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from http://techli.com/2014/02/five-issues-of-facial-recognition-software/#.
- Kofman, A. (2016, October 18). Study: Face Recognition Systems Threaten the Privacy of Retrieved May 15, 2017, from https://theintercept.com/2016/10/18/study-lack-of-face-recognition-oversight- threatens-privacy-of-millions/
- Revell, T. (n.d.). Concerns as face recognition tech used to ‘identify’ criminals. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2114900-concerns- as-face-recognition-tech-used-to-identify-criminals/
- Roberts, J. J. (2016, June 16). A Facial Recognition Nightmare Is Upon Us. Retrieved May 7, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2016/05/20/facial-recognition-nightmare/
- Top 8 Ways Facial Recognition Software is Being Used Today. (2015, July 14). Retrieved May 18, 2017, from http://www.techguruit.com/top-8-ways-facial-recognition- software-used-today/